Blowout week 114

This week’s Blowout features what has been described as “global warming’s evil twin” – ocean acidification, otherwise known as OA:

Australian:  Scientists are ‘exaggerating carbon threat to reefs and marine life’

Claims that coral reefs are doomed because human emissions are making the oceans more acidic have been exaggerated, a review of the science has found. An “inherent bias” in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification. The review found that many studies had used flawed methods, subjecting marine creatures to sudden increases in carbon dioxide that would never be experienced in real life. “In some cases it was levels far beyond what would ever be reached even if we burnt every molecule of carbon on the planet,” Howard Browman, the editor of ICES Journal of Marine Science, who oversaw the review, said. He said that a handful of influential scientific journals and lobbying by international organisations had turned ocean acidification into a major issue. “Such journals tend to publish doom and gloom stories …

… stated without equivocation,” he said. The bias in favour of doom-laden articles was partly the result of pressure on scientists to produce eye-catching work, he added. “You won’t get a job unless you publish an article that is viewed as of significant importance to society. People often forget that scientists are people and have the same pressures on them and the same kind of human foibles. Some are driven by different things. They want to be prominent.”

Further details here, including this informative graphic:

We continue with OPEC and oil, the Exxon case is referred to the FBI, Congress ups the pressure on NOAA, Germany demands that France shut down Fessenheim, the oil slump undermines the EU’s green agenda, wind power restrictions in Poland, the UK’s first unsubsidized wind farm, UEA abandons its biomass project without telling anyone, Labour wants a Hinkley “Plan B”, the smart energy revolution to save UK consumers £8 billion a year, two-thirds of Scots want more renewable energy, RSS adjusts its satellite temperatures upwards, bird poop shuts a nuclear plant down, why global warming will kill proportionately more people in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg than in Syria, Libya and the Congo and helium mining on the moon.

Nasdaq:  Crude relatively flat, as investors weigh odds of OPEC production freeze

Crude futures remained near one-month highs, wavering during a see-saw, choppy trade on Thursday, as investors continue to gauge whether OPEC will institute a production freeze later this month in order to stem a prolonged downturn in the oil industry. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for April delivery fluctuated between $34.20 and $35.30 a barrel before settling at $34.55, down 0.11 and 0.32% on the day. At session highs, U.S. crude futures surged above $35.25 for the first time since early-January. After falling to 2003-lows in mid February, WTI crude has rebounded by approximately 25%. WTI crude closed slightly lower after turning negative late in the session. On the Intercontinental Exchange, brent crude for May delivery traded between $36.36 and $37.36 a barrel, before closing at $37.06, up 0.13 or 0.35% on the session. North Brent Sea futures have also gained more than 18% since falling below $30 a barrel on February 11. Crude prices shot up in overnight, Asian trading after bullish comments from Nigeria oil minister Emmanuel Kachikwu on the increased possibility of an OPEC-Non OPEC summit in Russia at the end of this month. The participants are expected to rekindle discussion on a joint agreement to freeze production, as prices remain sharply below levels from 20 months ago when crude peaked at $115 a barrel. Speaking at a conference in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, Kachikwu indicated that the objective of the meeting could be to agree on a compromise that would help raise oil prices back to $50 a barrel.

Bloomberg:  Shale Oil Isn’t Saudi Arabia’s Only Nemesis

Even if Saudi Arabia wins its struggle with U.S. shale producers over market share, it will face a new billion-barrel adversary. t won’t be regional nemesis Iran, a resurgent Iraq or long-standing competitor Russia. The answer will be more prosaic: Even when overproduction ends, a stockpile surplus of more than 1 billion barrels built up since 2014 will remain, weighing on prices. Inventories will keep accumulating until the end of 2017, the International Energy Agency forecasts, and clearing the glut could take years. “We may get to the end of the year, and even though supply and demand are in balance, the market shrugs and says ‘So what?’ because it’s waiting for proof of inventory draw-downs,” said Mike Wittner, head of oil markets at Societe Generale SA in New York. “Moving from stock-builds to balance might not be enough.” For a historical precedent, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. points to the oil glut that developed in 1998 to 1999 as demand plunged in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. Crude prices kept falling even as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries made output cuts in March and then June of 1998, slipping below $10 a barrel in London in December of that year. It wasn’t until stockpiles in developed economies started dropping in early 1999 that the recovery took shape.

Oil Price:  Does This “Panic Index” Show A Major Crisis Coming In Oil And Gas?

Little-reported but extremely critical data point for the oil and gas industry emerged yesterday. With insiders in the debt business saying that risk levels in the sector have risen to unprecedented levels. That came from major ratings service Moody’s, with the firm saying that one of its proprietary indexes of credit problems in the oil and gas sector has hit the highest mark ever seen. That’s the so-called “Oil and Gas Liquidity Stress Index”. A measure of the number of energy companies that are facing looming credit problems because of overextended debt. Moody’s said that its Stress Index rose to 27.2 percent as of this week. Marking the highest level ever seen in this key indicator. In fact, that level is now considerably worse than seen during the last recession. When the Stress Index topped out at 24.5 percent. Moody’s said that the big jump in the index comes after a significant number of downgrades to energy company credit during February. With the firm having its biggest month ever for lowered credit scores — with a total of 25 firms seeing downgrades to their debt. All of which suggests there’s a lot of pain to come in the oil and gas space.

Oil Price:  $32 Billion Loss Forces Pemex To Downgrade Offshore Ambitions

Pemex reported a $9.3 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2015, bringing its full-year loss to a staggering $32 billion. Pemex’s oil production is declining and has been in decline for more than a decade. Output dropped to an average of 2.28 million barrels per day (mb/d) in the fourth quarter, a decline of 3.5 percent from the same period in 2014. That is sharply lower than the nearly 3.5 mb/d Mexico produced a little over a decade ago.Falling production obviously means the company has seen its revenue stream narrow, a problem that has grown substantially since the collapse in oil prices. Pemex has not turned a profit in nearly four years, and as a result, its debt has mounted, hitting $87 billion at the end of the third quarter. The Mexican government has ordered the company to trim costs, and so Pemex announced $5.5 billion in cost reductions. That prompted Pemex to announce a headline-grabbing decision to defer long-term offshore drilling. Pemex says that it will delay all plans to drill in deepwater in the Gulf of Mexico while it seeks to shore up its balance sheet. That will save $2.6 billion in the short run. “These adjustments do not weaken Pemex, they strengthen it,” José González Anaya said on Monday’s conference call, just a few weeks after becoming the company’s new CEO. But the focus on retrenchment in the short-term only means that production will continue to drop from its aging oil fields.

USA Today:  Oil, gas production ramping up in the Gulf

The U.S. government will open nearly 45 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas development later this month, at a time when low prices are forcing producers to cut back sharply on their exploration budgets. But the industry’s troubles have had little impact so far on oil output in the region. In fact, unlike onshore production, which has been tapering off as oil prices decline, Gulf of Mexico production is on its way to setting a record in 2017. “Production in the (Gulf of Mexico) is less sensitive than onshore production in the Lower 48 states to short-term price movements,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration wrote in a recent report. One reason for the difference is the much longer time needed to develop an offshore project, compared with one in a shale field. Also, offshore wells typically produce at longer and steadier rates than shale wells. EIA’s outlook for Gulf of Mexico oil is bullish despite expectations that oil prices will remain low for the foreseeable future. The government agency projects Gulf production will average 1.63 million barrels per day in 2016 and 1.79 million barrels per day in 2017, reaching an all-time high of 1.91 million barrels per day in December 2017.

Midland Reporter Telegram:  Oil exec: “It’s criminal the amount of oil and gas we’re leaving behind”

U.S. shale drillers have created the nation’s biggest oil and gas boom in four decades and the amount of fuel extracted from U.S. shale rocks lags behind only three nations — Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States. Yet the individual wells they drill only drain a quarter of the natural gas and less than 10 percent of the oil buried in the once-inaccessible shale and other tight rocks. “It’s criminal the amount of oil and gas we’re leaving behind,” said Hans-Christian Freitag, vice president of integrated technology at Baker Hughes, during a panel on the third day of IHS Energy CERAWeek in downtown Houston. Freitag blamed the shale industry’s so-called manufacturing process of shale drilling. The way shale-oil producers approach an oil field is this: to get a constant rising flow of oil and gas out of rapidly declining shale wells, they need to drill up several similar wells in a short period of time. But 70 percent of unconventional wells don’t reach their production targets, and 30 percent of all perforation clusters aren’t yielding as much oil or gas as they should, Freitag said. “Anybody here in the room own a factory that has this kind of performance?”

Nature:  US lawmakers expand probe of climate study

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are expanding their request for documents related to a major climate study by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Agency researchers published the analysis last June in Science1. After updating and correcting problems with the temperature record, the team found no sign of an apparent pause in global warming that had been described in previous studies. In October, Congressman Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who leads the House science committee, issued a subpoena for documents related to the NOAA research. The agency has since provided more than 300 pages of e-mails and other documents produced by political appointees and by NOAA’s director of communications, Ciaran Clayton. But NOAA has refused to hand over records of its internal scientific deliberations. Now Smith is casting his net wider. In a 22 February letter to NOAA, he expressed disappointment with the “slow pace and limited scope” of NOAA’s response to his initial request. “The speed with which NOAA has conducted these searches and produced documents creates the perception that the Agency is deliberately attempting to impede and hinder the Committee’s oversight,” he wrote. Smith is now asking that NOAA provide his committee with documents from other agency officials and offices, including chief scientist Richard Spinrad. In his letter, Smith also demands that the search terms be expanded to include a host of new words, including “temperature”, “climate”, “change”, “Obama” and “Paris”. Smith has asked the agency to deliver all documents by 29 February.

Inside Climate News:  Exxon Digs In Against Shareholder Pressure to Address Climate Change

ExxonMobil has challenged a shareholder resolution that calls for the company to show how its business will be affected by the global commitment to dramatically slow global warming. The resolution—filed by the New York State comptroller’s office and four co-filers—also seeks an explanation of how Exxon will address those impacts. Exxon notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it wants to block a vote on the proposal at its annual meeting in May. The fossil fuel giant argued that it’s unlikely that strict emissions restrictions will be imposed to meet the goal of holding global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius that world governments agreed to in last year’s Paris climate accord. Exxon investors have filed a series of shareholder resolutions seeking to reform the company’s climate change policies, including appointing someone to the board who is in tune with climate issues and for the company to take moral responsibility for climate change. The company is challenging other climate-related resolutions, including the moral responsibility proposal. Stockholders have been urging Exxon to confront the threat of climate change for decades. They have fought to have the company invest in renewable energy, cut harmful emissions and perform carbon risk assessments. Yet the company has regularly rejected shareholders’ requests and dismissed their concerns.

The Hill:  Exxon case referred to FBI

The decision about whether to investigate ExxonMobil Corporation’s advocacy on climate change is now in the FBI’s hands. The Department of Justice (DOJ), which received multiple requests to probe Exxon for potential legal action, has sent the case to the FBI for its consideration, it told a pair of Democratic lawmakers. The FBI will determine whether an investigation is warranted,” Peter Kadzik, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, wrote. DOJ sent the letter in January, but the lawmakers only released it this week. InsideClimate News first reported on the letter. The development still means Democrats and activists are far from their goal of getting Exxon investigated and potentially punished for its actions on climate change. Reports last year from InsideClimate and the Los Angeles Times found Exxon’s own research as early as the 1970s found that climate change was a problem and caused by fossil fuel consumption. But the company later sought to sow doubt about climate change science in an effort to stop potential policies that would hurt its bottom line, the reports found. Exxon has repeatedly denied the allegations and said it has been at the forefront of scientific research into climate change.

Canadian Manufacturing:  Germany tells France to shut nuclear power plant near border

Germany says it wants France to shut down its oldest nuclear plant as soon as possible amid re-ports that an incident at the facility two years ago was more serious than previously known. German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcaster WDR reported a series of problems when engineers tried to tackle a minor water leak that ended with an emergency shutdown of one of the two reactors at the Fessenheim plant, which lies just across the Rhine that marks the border between France and Germany. The reports cite a letter from the French Nuclear Safety Authority to the head of the nuclear plant detailing the incident on April 9, 2014. “It’s not the first incident or the first problem that we know about from this reactor, and that’s why the environment minister demands the reactor be shut down as soon as possible,” said Stephan Haufe, a spokesman for Germany’s environment ministry. Haufe said the incident was discussed by a Franco-German nuclear safety panel at the time, and Berlin agreed with Paris’ assessment about the seriousness of the incident – “one” on a scale from zero to seven.

Guardian:  Oregon votes to eliminate coal-fired power

Oregon has become the first US state to pass laws to rid itself of coal, committing to eliminate the use of coal-fired power by 2035 and to double the amount of renewable energy in the state by 2040. Legislation passed by the state’s assembly, which will need to be signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, will transition Oregon away from coal, which currently provides around a third of the state’s electricity supply. At the same time, the state will also require its two largest utilities to increase their share of clean energy, such as solar and wind, to 50% by 2040. Combined with Oregon’s current hydroelectric output, the state will be overwhelmingly powered by low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels. Climate campaigners said the legislation was a landmark moment and showed that the US was moving rapidly towards renewables, despite the temporary block placed by the supreme court on the Obama administration’s clean power plan.

Politico:  Oil slump undermines EU’s green agenda

Slumping oil and gas prices could be a boon for the EU, but at the cost of weakening the economic argument for its green energy policies. Making a case for renewable energy projects and ramping up energy efficiency is increasingly difficult at a time when oil prices are less than a third of what they were two years ago. As oil prices have tumbled, demand has turned back to old-fashioned fuels for heating, transportation and power generation. At $34, producing energy from a barrel of oil costs 4 cents per kilowatt hour. It costs about 8 cents per kWh to generate energy from most advanced wind and solar projects in the EU, according to Georg Zachmann, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. Back when oil was around $100, it cost 12 cents to generate energy from a barrel, giving wind and solar an edge. “I believe low energy prices may complicate the transformation, to be very frank, and this is a very important issue for countries to note,” Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s executive director, told reporters last month. “All the strong renewable energy and energy efficiency policies may therefore be undermined by the low fossil fuel prices.”

Platts:  German wind boom triggers subsidy cuts

Germany’s booming onshore wind installations have triggered a further automatic subsidy cut as the government mulls tighter caps in its next reform of the renewable energy bill (EEG) currently under consultation with a planned move to a tender process for most renewable subsidies from 2017 onwards. Onshore wind installations over the 12-month-reference period (Feb 2015 to Jan 2016) totaled 3,564 MW, which will automatically trigger a further cut in subsidies by 1.2% from July, the federal grid regulator BNetzA said this week. This will be the third quarter in a row that subsidies will be cut automatically as installations remain well above the annual ceiling of 2,600 MW, it said. Germany’s 2014 reform of the EEG law introduced an annual target corridor of 2.4 GW to 2.6 GW of net onshore wind additions with installations above or below triggering automatic adjustments to the feed-in-tariffs with the grid regulator monitoring additions on a quarterly basis. But while deep subsidy cuts and monthly monitoring for solar managed to slow down the speed of solar additions to their lowest level since 2007, wind has boomed since the 2014 reforms with Germany adding a record 11 GW of new wind capacity over the past two years. Some 3 GW of this were delayed offshore wind projects finally coming online as grid link bottlenecks eased, but onshore wind alone added over 8 GW, overshooting the annual cap by over 3 GW for 2014/15.

Bloomberg:  Poland’s new wind farm regulations

One of Europe’s most promising markets for renewable energy is being threatened by legislation that would impose new fees and potential jail terms for operators of wind farms, an industry lobby group said. Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party is proposing laws that would require new turbines to be situated away from homes, schools and natural reserves at a distance of more than 10-times their height. That would be about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles), according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The law also would subject existing wind farms to audits every two years. The law would raise annual wind farm costs by as much as 150 million zloty ($37.6 million) even if no more turbines were built, according to the draft legislation. While the government is attempting to clamp down on rising electricity bills and empower communities concerned about the installations, the wind industry says the rules would choke off development and eliminate a clean source of electricity. Poland’s plans “will tie projects up in red tape and make life difficult for developers by imposing arbitrary rules that serve no other purpose than to prevent wind turbine deployment,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for the European Wind Energy Association. “This draft law is a clear statement of intent and should not be allowed to stand.”

Guardian:  Climate activists threaten to shut down world’s major coal sites

Climate activists will use direct action to try to shut down major fossil fuel sites across the world in May, including the UK’s largest opencast coal mine in south Wales. The dozen international sites facing civil disobedience from the Break Free 2016 campaign span the globe from the US to Australia and South Africa to Indonesia. Ellie Groves, from the Reclaim the Power network, said: “Climate activists will use direct action to try to shut down major fossil fuel sites across the world in May, including the UK’s largest opencast coal mine in south Wales. The Ffos-y-fran opencast mine, near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, is about halfway through extracting 11m tonnes of coal. Ellie Groves, from the Reclaim the Power network, said: “The only way we can stop catastrophic climate change is taking action to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The local community have battled Ffos-¬y-¬fran for nearly a decade and now face the threat of a new mine next door at Nant Llesg,” said Groves. “Enough is enough. We need a ban on opencast coal mining across Wales, and the rest of the UK.” A statement from Reclaim the Power said: “Hundreds are expected to set up camp nearby and take part in a mass action to close the mine.”

BBC:  Hinkley Point C construction ‘should be delayed until 2019’

Investment in Hinkley Point C should be held until 2019 so problems with a similar reactor design in France are solved, the CFE-CGC Energy Union said. It comes after French firm EDF Energy agreed a deal in principle last year, to invest in the Somerset site. Unions occupy six of the 18 seats on the board of EDF, which is yet to vote on a final investment decision. The £18bn project has been plagued by delays, but publicly the firm has insisted a decision to move forward is imminent. Speaking at the EDF annual presentation of accounts last month, chairman Jean-Bernard Levy said the final investment decision was “just ahead of us”, but he did not give an exact date. The Hinkley C story has been a rollercoaster – with little sign of a less bumpy ride around the corner. The company’s problem is that it has made too many pronouncements of a final investment decision being “soon.” Many deadlines have come and gone. And each time nerves jangle a little more among those who say the nuclear project is vital to the economic prosperity of the West.

Financial Times:  Labour calls for a Hinkley Point “Plan B”

Labour has called on the government to come up with a “Plan B” in case Hinkley Point is never built, ahead of talks between David Cameron and François Hollande to discuss the proposed nuclear power station. The British government has promised subsidies and guarantees to support EDF, the French-owned power company, and its Chinese partners, in building the project, which should provide 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity. But EDF has delayed a crucial final investment decision in the £18bn project, heightening jitters about the long-delayed scheme — the first in a wave of new nuclear power stations in Britain. The French company has repeatedly said that final approval is “imminent” but some board members are pushing for a further lengthy delay. Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow energy secretary, will warn in a speech on Friday that the delays to Hinkley Point are part of a wider energy crunch on the horizon. Ms Nandy will argue that Hinkley Point C is on track to be the most expensive power station ever built, costing more than the 2012 Olympics, Crossrail and Heathrow’s Terminal 5 combined. She will call on the government to find cheaper ways to get more nuclear stations built in future.

BBC:  Smart energy could save £8bn a year, say advisers

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) envisages a smart energy revolution with more cables linking the National Grid to mainland Europe. NIC also says the UK needs to store much more energy from intermittent renewable like wind and solar. Fridges, freezers and washing machines could play a part, they say. Experts believe it is the first step to a full-scale “Internet of Energy”, with web-enabled home appliances like freezers and washing machines linked to the grid. Here’s how it would work: At a time of peak demand, an energy firm’s computer will contact your smart freezer to ask if power can be switched off for a few minutes to allow your neighbour to use some of the energy to cook dinner. Your well-insulated freezer will stay cold without electricity for a while, so it will agree to power down. You will be rewarded with a credit on your energy bill. On the other hand, at times the grid is awash with energy – at night, or when it’s very windy or sunny. In these times of energy plenty, a computer will contact your web-enabled washing machine or dishwasher to ask if they want to turn on to benefit from cheap power. This is known as demand flexibility – and the infrastructure commission says it must be supported by government.

Ofgem:  Ofgem challenges power grid companies to connect more renewables

Ofgem is challenging local electricity grid owners to follow Western Power Distribution’s lead by squeezing more capacity out of their grids to connect renewables. In some regions including the South West, there is little spare network capacity meaning costs and timescales for connec-tion can be extremely high. So Ofgem is calling on electricity distribution network operators (DNOs) to speed up connections, firstly by finding new ways to link more generators to the ex-isting network. Western Power Distribution (WPD) has a queue of 7.6GW of generators waiting to connect of which around 4.8 GW are solar panel schemes. WPD is reconfiguring part of its grid so that some of the generators in the queue can get quicker connections. In addition WPD is offering to connect some generators but only if they agree to cut their output on days of the year when there is the highest demand from other generators to use the grid. They will not receive compensation payments for this. Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: “We want DNOs to take creative approaches to speeding up renewable connections. They can do this firstly by making best use of their existing grids, as WPD has done. We are also calling on DNOs to enable earlier investment in new capacity where necessary using funding in their price controls. This means that they won’t be adding extra costs onto your bill.”

Guardian:  University of East Anglia quietly abandons biomass scheme

One of the UK’s largest and most ambitious biomass schemes, built with a £1m government grant, has been quietly abandoned. The £10.5m plant was intended to burn woodchips to power much of the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has been hailed for its environmental credentials. But a source inside the university said that the biomass unit has never run for more than 30 minutes, while students and staff told the Guardian that the plant’s wood storage area is now being used to store Christmas decorations. The power station, which was meant to cut the university’s carbon emissions by one-third when announced in 2007, was built using a £1m grant from the environment department in addition to renewable energy subsidies, according to UEA’s accounts. Suzanne Jones, a local campaigner on environmental issues said: “UEA has established an international reputation for its leadership in environmental technology, so it’s extremely disappointing that they have tried to hide the failure of their biomass project. There has been a complete lack of transparency here.” The university has refused several Freedom of Information Act requests from local activist group The Norwich Radical in the past six months, saying releasing the information “would have a chilling effect on the development of new low-carbon energy projects in future” and a negative impact on the economic interests of the university and commercial partners.

Digital Journal:  Reservations about the UK’s use of biomass

Last year, six million tons of wood pellets harvested from forests in Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida and Alabama were shipped across the Atlantic, to be burned in “biomass” power plants. Not everyone is delighted over countries using wood pellets to meet “renewable” energy targets, and they are speaking up about the issue. A consortium of NGO’s published a paper on September 6, 2015, arguing that the EU should exclude wood from its renewable energy targets. The group’s argument is worth consideration because they claim that hardwood wetland forests are being cut down in the Southeastern U.S., and in effect this is causing a greater lack of biodiversity and adding to the increase in carbon emissions. When you add to the cutting down of the trees the cost of using transportation to bring the wood to a seaport for shipment across the Atlantic, it is questionable where the sustainability is supposed to be in this practice. You could argue that the forest will regrow, but in the meantime, there is a loss of wildlife habitat, and the soil doesn’t store as much biomass as it would if left undisturbed. It should also be noted that a UK study published in July 2014 showed that energy produced from regenerated forests produced a carbon intensity that was five-times higher than coal.

Sun Wind Energy:  UK government proposes to drop solar thermal support

The British support mechanism for renewable heating systems, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), is under review, in an attempt to reduce its total budget of £ 700 million up to 2021. According to the UK Solar Trade Association (STA), since the domestic RHI began in April 2014 there have been only 2,000 accredited solar thermal systems, representing less than a quarter of the total solar thermal market in 2010. While 17 % of the renewable heat plants accredited to the domestic RHI scheme until December 2015 were solar thermal systems, these systems supplied only 2% of the renewable heat produced by supported plants. Additionally, solar thermal energy has the highest tariff in the RHI, which makes it the least cost-effective technology when compared to biomass and heat pumps. A survey apparently also showed that half of the owner-occupier applicants said they would have installed a solar thermal system regardless of the RHI support. With this, the DECC concluded that “solar thermal represents poor value for money for taxpayers”. Even though the Government sees the advantages of solar thermal energy such as low upfront costs and its contribution to the decarbonisation of heating, for them these reasons are not enough to justify ongoing RHI support.

Edie:  Britain’s first subsidy-free wind farm planned for Cornwall

A community-owned wind farm that can run without financial aid or Government subsidies looks set to become a reality after UK-based green energy firm Good Energy submitted proposals for a new site in Cornwall. Good Energy has submitted proposals to the Planning Inspectorate for the 38.5MW, 11-turbine ‘Big Field Wind Farm’ near Bude in Cornwall. The firm is opening up funding options which could see local investors and residents take a majority share in the project. Good Energy chief executive Juliet Davenport said: “This is a bold and innovative response to the challenges laid down by Government to the renewables industry since the election last year. This project will give local people the chance to show their support for renewable energy, and all the benefits it brings both locally and globally, by investing in their own wind farm. The benefits of the Big Field Wind Farm are too great for it not to go ahead just because subsidies are being withdrawn. Being community-owned will ensure that the economic benefit of the wind farm can be retained locally and re-invested in Cornwall.” The revised plans also lays out how the wind farm could be funded solely by the income from the electricity it generates.

Cleantechnica:  Majority Of Scots Want To Make Renewables A Priority

The people of Scotland are heading to the polls on the 5th of May, and a recent survey conducted by market research firm YouGov asked more than 1,000 voters whether the next Scottish government should prioritize the continued development of renewables, extending the life of fossil fuel plants, using shale gas, or building new nuclear power stations. Overwhelmingly, the people of Scotland want to see renewables prioritized. 70% of respondents said they wanted to see more renewable electricity generating sources like wind, solar, wave, and tidal, while two-thirds of respondents agreed that the next Scottish government should “continue to take forward policies that tackle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change”. “The poll suggests that the people of Scotland continue to be strongly behind the growth of renewable energy, with support for the sector way ahead of any other,” said Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, which commissioned the survey. “Just months after the Paris climate change agreement, the poll also shows clear support for Scotland’s next government to prioritise policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

American Meteorological Society Journal:  Adjusted RSS troposphere temperature show more warming

The focus of this paper is the middle tropospheric measurements made by the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) channel 2, and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) channel 5. Previous versions of the RSS dataset have used a diurnal climatology derived from general circulation model output to remove the effects of drifting local measurement time. In this paper, we present evidence that this previous method is not sufficiently accurate, and present several alternative methods to optimize these adjustments using information from the satellite measurements themselves. These are used to construct a number of candidate climate data records using measurements from 15 MSU and AMSU satellites. The new methods result in improved agreement between measurements made by different satellites at the same time. We choose a method based on an optimized second harmonic adjustment to produce a new version of the RSS dataset, Version 4.0. The new dataset shows substantially increased global-scale warming relative to the previous version of the dataset, particularly after 1998. The new dataset shows more warming than most other middle tropospheric data records constructed from the same set of satellites. We also show that the new dataset is consistent with long-term changes in total column water vapor over the tropical oceans, lending support to its long-term accuracy.

Wall Street Journal:  More trouble for Prof. Shukla

Remember the university professor who wanted the government to use the RICO law created to prosecute mobsters as a tool against global-warming dissenters? Well, taxpayers may be the ones calling for an investigation after examining the nonprofit venture that George Mason University Professor Jagadish Shukla has been running with generous government funding. On Tuesday evening House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith wrote to the inspector general at the National Science Foundation. Chairman Smith reported that Mr. Shukla has recently been audit-ed by the university in connection with his outside position running the Institute of Global Envi-ronment and Society (IGES). According to Chairman Smith’s letter, the audit “appears to reveal that Dr. Shukla engaged in what is referred to as ‘double dipping.’ In other words, he received his full salary at GMU, while working full time at IGES and receiving a full salary there.” Mr. Smith cites a memo from the school’s internal auditor in claiming that Mr. Shukla appeared to violate the university’s policy on outside employment and paid consulting. The professor received $511,410 in combined compensation from the school and IGES in 2014, according to Mr. Smith, “without ever receiving the appropriate permission from GMU officials.” The school didn’t respond to our Tuesday afternoon request for comment. We reached Mr. Shukla by phone and asked if it is correct that George Mason had audited his finances. He replied, “I don’t know. I don’t want to talk to you. I’m in a meeting.” Then he hung up the phone.

CNN:  Bird poop shuts down nuclear plant

An errant bird dropping appears to have caused the temporary shutdown of part of the Indian Point nuclear plant in upstate New York. A report by Entergy, the site operator, pointed the fin-ger at a bird “streamer” — colorfully explained in the document as “long streams of excrement from large birds that are often expelled as a bird takes off from a perch” — as the cause of the shutdown, which tripped a safety breaker and took a reactor at the site out of commission for three days in December. There was no leak of radiation as a result of the accident, and at no time was public health and safety in jeopardy, the report to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission noted. Additional anti-avian security will be put in place to minimize the chances of another poop-related outage.

Euractiv:  Climate change will kill more Italians and Greeks than Syrians

Climate change will kill more Italians and Greeks than Syrians in 2050, as soaring temperatures destroy crops and disrupt food supplies, new research published in medical journal The Lancet has found. About 124 Greeks will die for every million of its population in 2050, making it the third worst hit country per capita globally behind China and Vietnam, according to the report published yesterday (3 March). Italy is 12th in the study’s analysis of 155 countries with 4,630 deaths in total. Syria, in contrast, will lose just 320 people, 840 fewer than Greece. Other EU countries including the UK, France, Germany and Italy will also suffer greater death tolls both in numbers and per capita than Syria in 2050. Poland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg also rank higher than the wartorn country, and other nations such as Libya and Congo. The study, led by Dr Marco Springmann from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, said that climate change will harm food supplies so drastically that half a million people will die worldwide in 2050 alone. Nearly half of those deaths will happen in China (247,910), with 230 Chinese succumbing per million of the population.

Telegraph:  Helium mining on the moon

The space-faring nations have ignored the 1979 outer space treaty, and last year America’s Space Act removed legal obstacles to extra terrestrial activity, and many people are gearing up to mine one of the most valuable substances that occurs in nature. This extraordinary substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel. It is rare on Earth, being blown away by the solar wind. It is found in Troclotite, a metal of magnesium and iron, again rare but plentiful in the Moon’s crust. This helium-3 could be extracted by heating the lunar dust to around 1,200 degrees F before bringing it back to the Earth to fuel a new generation of nuclear fusion power plants. A fully-loaded spaceship’s cargo base could power a quarter of the world for a year. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value in the order of about £1 billion a ton, making it the Moon’s most valuable commodity except perhaps for astronomy and promoting tourism.

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13 Responses to Blowout week 114

  1. A C Osborn says:

    ” 70% of respondents said they wanted to see more renewable electricity generating sources like wind, solar, wave, and tidal, while two-thirds of respondents agreed that the next Scottish government should “continue to take forward policies that tackle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change”.”

    I am sorry for you Euan, to have so many in favour of economic suicide.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      70% of Scots agree with doubling, even tripling pensions
      70% of Scots agree that curing cancer is a good idea
      70% of Scots agree with abolishing poverty and unemployment

      The reality is that the country is going to the dogs. Infrastructure is crumbling. Litter everywhere. I think virtually all money is now spent on healthcare and the elderly.

  2. donb says:

    Helium-3 (3He) is valuable only in some people’s imagination. After over 40 years of trying, practical fusion reactors have not been developed, and their development presents some fundamental problems. Most attempts utilize nuclear reactions that occur at lower energies than those involving He-3. And higher reaction energy means tremendously high temperatures. Further, prior to reactions that would involve He-3, other reactions would first occur and produce energetic neutrons.
    Consider He-3 as a fusion source only after the fusion process is mastered at a commercial energy scale.

    • robertok06 says:

      “Helium-3 (3He) is valuable only in some people’s imagination”

      He-3 is very valuable in research, for developping efficient radiation detectors, and studying reactivity issues in fission reactors.
      Tritium, Hydrogen-3, is much easier to produce and to use in fusion reactors.
      He-3 is only hype… nothing to take seriously.
      Mining one ton of any material on the moon would cost more than 1 billion dollars, which is reportedly the value of such an amount of He-3… so nobody will ever do it, if nothing for economical reasons.

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    Re “Ocean acidification will destroy the Great Barrier Reef” Readers should be familiar with the annual funding cycle, where grants are made to various ‘researchers’. This leads to a flood of doom stories every year trying to arouse public alarm, followed by politicians demanding “something be done”. This process has been quite successful for many years in getting funds for marine scientists, but is becoming less successful, for reasons outlined by Aesop (boy who cried wolf).

    It is curious that with all these ‘scientists’ crying about ‘Ocean acidification’ that none of them have measured the level of CO2 needed to turn seawater acid. Possibly figures above 900,000 ppm might not promote alarm at all.

  4. Gaznotprom says:

    Think the bottom line is when they’re out of arguments, they just lie unfortunately.

    Hat-tip to noisy a minority, including many on here, that take apart these arguments & hypothesis and discover that they are at best faulty or really blatent lies!

    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”

  5. The good energy story is weird

    “Good Energy originally put proposals for the site before planners in 2014, but due to the lack of enabling policies coming out from Government, the firm has since revamped its plans. The revised design will see the site boost its energy output by up to 50% without increasing the maximum 125m height of the turbines.”

    What would they build infrastructure and not use the capacity that the infrastructure is capable of delivering? Were they hoping to deliberately curtail the output by putting in a smaller generator to get some subsidy boost?

    I do not understand…

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    Smaller capacity wind turbines used to get a more favourable handout in the UK, so a number of ‘developers’ de-rated their turbines as they could get more money. I don’t know if this still applies but there you have one explanation for a sudden jump in capacity (only when the wind blows).

  7. robertok06 says:

    Talking about someone asking someone else to shut down his nuclear power stations…

    … there are news in switzerland lately, but I cannot find a version in English, saying that the city of Geneva has asked the French courts to shut down the aging Bugey nuclear power station (4x 900 MWe reactors, running since the mid 70s)… the reason behind would be that the power station pollutes/contaminates the Rhone river… please note that Bugey is DOWNSTREAM of Geneva, along the course of the river…. cherchez l’erreur!

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